Current Lab Members

Stuart M. Levitz, M.D.   

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Stuart Levitz received his M.D. degree from New York University Medical School. Since 2006, Dr. Levitz has been a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His over 150 research publications are mostly focused on the mechanisms by which the immune system controls fungal pathogens and the strategies that fungi utilize to circumvent host defenses. Recent areas of interest include Cryptococcus vaccine development and deciphering the role of eosinophils in invasive and allergic aspergillosis. Dr. Levitz is an attending physician at UMassMemorial Hospital where he specializes in Transplant Infectious Diseases.

Charles A. Specht, Ph.D.

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Charlie Specht received his Ph.D. from the University of Vermont, where he studied the mitochondrial and ribosomal DNA of the fungus Schizophyllum commune, while also developing techniques to isolate and characterize its mating-type genes. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focusing on fungal chitin synthases, chitinases and chitin deacetylases. Dr. Specht has worked closely with Dr. Levitz since 2001. Research areas include understanding the synthesis of chitin and chitosan and their role in organizing the cell wall of the pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus neoformans, and the pre-clinical development of cryptococcal vaccines.

Bhawna Yadav, Ph.D.

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Bhawna Yadav received her Ph.D. in 2015 from the National JALMA Institute for leprosy & Other Mycobacterial Diseases in Agra, India. She joined the Levitz lab as Postdoctoral researcher in 2016. Bhawna’s research is focused on investigating the contribution of eosinophils and the IL-23/IL-17 axis to host immune responses to Aspergillus.

Lorena Oliveira Ramalho, Ph.D

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Lorena Oliveira Ramalho received her PhD in 2017 from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil and joined the Levitz lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2018. Lorena’s work is focused on the immune response to Cryptococcus and the development of vaccines to protect against cryptococcal infections.

Ambily Abraham, Ph.D.

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Ambily Abraham graduated from Indian Institute of Science and joined Prof. Gary Ostroff’s lab to pursue her postdoctoral studies. Among other collaborative projects, she works closely with the Levitz lab on developing glucan particle-based vaccines targeting fungal diseases.

Maureen Hester, Ph.D. student

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Maureen Hester joined the lab as an undergraduate intern from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2015 and continued to work as a technician while completing her MS at UConn.  Now as a graduate student, Maureen’s research focuses on the mechanisms of protection induced by experimental vaccination against Cryptococcus.

Christina Gomez

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Christina Gomez graduated from Becker College with a Bachelor of Science in the Animal Science Program. She joined the lab in 2017. Christina maintains the mouse colonies and helps run the vaccination studies.

Zhongming Mou

Zhongming Mou received his medical degree and training in surgery and pathology in China. He has worked at UMass Medical School since 2013. Zhongming’s main project is to decipher the contribution of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to protection mediated by Cryptococcus vaccines. He also helps with the Aspergillus immunology studies.